I dropped my kayak off at the lake on Friday afternoon after I left work and it was secured in one of the budget trucks at the dock. The process of finding out what to do and where to be when was a bit muddy. We got general emails telling us to park at the expo race morning and what time to be at our spot, but no special instructions about how we would be able to unload boats the day of, road closures, etc. It was a little frustrating since I'd never been involved. However, I got the number for the Ironman swim captain and he was very nice and helpful, making things much easier.
I woke up at 4am and drove to Decker Lake, parking at the Expo center around 5:45. I knew from the year I did the race that taking Loyola Lane was NOT the way to go, so I went north through Manor and took Decker Lane south from 290. Easy, breezy, parked quickly and hopped on the bus. The bus driver turned out to be a man named Sam, who I know from work. He drives the truck for a food pantry my nonprofit partners with, and is a super hard worker. I made sure to tell him a big happy HI, which I don't think he was ready for before the sun was up.
It was COLD for Texas that morning! The temperature was about 50 degrees, but with the wind chill, it was icier. I threw concerns about looking cute to the wind, and wore my pink snowboarding pants, my grey Ironman jacket (with my volunteer shirt over it) and a face scarf, along with my adorable Luna Chix cycling trucker hat.
|Anyone want to build a snowman?!|
|Everyone was jealous of my pink kayak!|
|Beautiful sunrise over the lake!|
I did this because the sun was coming up directly in line with the turn buoy and I could tell by the body language of some swimmers that they couldn't see it. Here, I shall impart the lessons I learned while watching the swim from above.
Know the course. Really though! If you are unfamiliar with open water swimming, with triathlon swims, or just that body of water, read your athlete guide cover to cover and attend meetings! Had the 20 or so swimmers I had to redirect done that, they'd have known the ONLY time they turned was at a red buoy. Instead, they added about 300 yards to their swim by going for the next orange ones and trying to cut a huge corner off the course (not on purpose, I know, but they were sorry for it and it is an avoidable mistake!
Pay attention. Getting off course happens! I've done it at this very lake before during this race. Don't be so zoned in that you don't hear TWO kayaks whistling, yelling, and splashing with their paddles at you. If the swimmers we flagged down would have listened when we first started yelling, they'd have saved a few hundred yards of extra swimming!
|My snow pants were the best choice I made all morning! Soaked!|
We are here to help! Got a cramp? Feel lost? Need a sip of water? Water angels are here for you! It's OK and race legal to grab on, ask questions, or just catch your breath. The water was so choppy, and lots of people were getting more than the bargained for. I was glad to get to anyone who waved an arm at me and provide some relief.
Every single other person was nothing but normal and nice, though, and I got many thank-yous, which was very sweet.
Don't waste time. Time limits are there for safety and for logistics. If you stop for a break, don't waste time debating with me if you have time enough to finish. If you've got the energy and feel safe, just get going! I watched a guy to the shore who missed his cut-off by 20 seconds. He'd have made it if he would have just kept going instead of trying to get me to talk him out of it!
It was overall a very fun morning! My TomTom said I was on the water for 3 hours, paddling about 2.5 miles total. I got to see both of my girlfriends out there swimming. They could spot me since I was the only pink boat, so it was fun to cheer them on from the water. I got a great workout and had fun getting back to my old water rescue days, and would love to help out again next year, now that I know how it works.
|My view from the back, holding down the hatch so we didn't lose my kayak!|
After the last swimmer, I was standing at the dock drying off and warming up, and got to talking to my new friend Glenn, who had paddle boarded in front of the men's pro field. I told him about my logistical troubles and that I was parked at the expo center and he told me he'd give me and my boat a ride! (And told me next year to just ignore instructions and park at the boat ramp with the rest of those bringing their own)
Turns out Glenn had also raced at IM Texas, so we talked about that as we took the long way around to the Expo center. I felt like a dork, because I had no idea where my car was, so while he went and got a free lunch from the volunteer stand, I wandered the parking lot until my clicker made my car beep. It was so nice of him to let me load my dirty boat in his car, not even knowing me! He said that's just what we do for fellow triathletes, and he's right. This is such a great community to be involved in.
I got loaded up and dried off in time to get a great spot to see Sandra come in off the bike. I was mad when I finally saw her and flipped on my camera, only to have it on the selfie setting by mistake, so I only got her from behind. But check out that cute SOAS kit- look familiar?! :)
As she ran down the road, I ran back to my car and grabbed my mountain bike and pedaled hard along the course. I found her as she came back out of the park and rode along with her to back to the expo center. I wasn't pacing or coaching her (she didn't need it!) and was just there for moral support. I did this for her first and second lap, then during her third, put my bike up and used my volunteer shirt to get a great spot on the expo floor. I waited about 45 minutes and was so pumped when I saw her coming down the chute. I took like 5 pictures and my worthless phone DIDN'T SAVE ANY OF THEM! I was so, so mad!!!
She finished in an amazing 6:45 minutes, crushing it like I knew she would! I'm so proud of her, and can't wait to race (and likely get beaten by her!) at Boulder in August! Before then, we are re-uniting the Blistered Sisters and racing the RAAM Texas Challenge 400 mile course as a 2-person relay. I think we can do it in under 24 hours. :)
Great job, babe! You're amazing and I'm so proud of you! (You too, Lauren, for battling it out through your injury! You can thank my magic high five for any extra power boots you got!)